Local elections. They’re of intense focus to a few but virtually no interest to many. Then there’s a big group in between with serious potential to care, at least in my optimistically oriented mind.
Why, Why, Why?
“Why is it that local election participation is so seriously low, and how do we change it for the better?” I wonder out loud.
Why are we OK with so few people deciding how our community is going to operate?
Why have so little to say about things that matter to people in your city or neighborhood or down the block?
Why do we know so little about how the school, town council, board, or whatever we have a say in, operate when the results of their decisions have such a specific and sometimes immediate impact on our lives?
We focus much more attention and seem to be more engaged in national elections. Every voter should care about that, too. But national elections have less likelihood to touch what you do day after day on the roads, sidewalks, in the parks or downtowns, at schools, and with mission-critical things like local fire and police, school buses, the roads getting plowed, and how most necessities in your life work.
Mind the Money
Then think about how much money all those people are spending on your behalf. Wouldn’t you want to have an idea of what they are spending it on? Whether your property taxes as a homeowner are $1,000 or $2,500, do you really write a load of checks for many thousands of dollars and not have a pretty good idea where the money is going? Local taxes and fees are part of your home, apartment, business, and where you shop and play, so you are paying them one way or another.
Don’t you have an opinion on how you’d like life to be wherever you go with that money?
Business owners to renters, students to older folks - holding onto what you have - don’t you want to keep an eye on where your hard-earned dollars are being used?
Easier than ever to stay involved
Think it is too hard to stay involved or aware?
It still is much harder in some communities than it should be, but it’s all still well within our capacity to know what is happening with local elections. Many cities and councils have made great strides in conducting the people’s business in front of the people with things like consistent and easy-to-find agendas and meetings notes, and live streams of public meetings. We still have far to go, but the examples and groundwork are there.
If you ask, there are loads of groups on Facebook where you can connect with local groups who are civic-minded. Virtually every politician has a Facebook page where you can publicly ask a question or send a message and their emails are easy to find. For those who don’t – be aware. The voting public probably won’t allow that much longer. Budgets, presentations, candidate filing paperwork of donors, and countless additional resources are available a few clicks away.
You can also still do the traditional thing and just walk into a public meeting and listen to what is going on and ask questions.
Whom do you trust?
Whom do you trust to make good decisions on behalf of you and your family?
Who is going to take your community to where you want to see it?
I don’t personally care what any party, person, print media, TV, radio, or online tells me regarding voting choice. I just look to multiple sources of info to help me decide. I can see clearly what is in their best interest. I’m interested in mine and I encourage each of you who isn’t engaged at the local level to be more interested in yours.
Have a say in what is happening, because
#1 it is so easy to do
#2 you have so much at stake
#3 becoming informed is easier than ever before.
Our crew is going to be publishing a series of civic education pieces and building from that in years to come. We don’t choose parties or candidates or positions or tell you who to vote for. Never have and never will. That’s your job.
We think it is a really smart idea to vote and we are going to be doing our part to help spread that message.
Vote Local. These folks are taking care of where you live.